Tag Archives: minnesota

Building Relationships for Change

Building relationships among communities, organizations and individuals helps to fill the social gaps that create barriers against racial equity in Minnesota. At a recent OAP training (discussed in the previous post), the importance of these relationships and shaping individual values together for collective change were highlighted.

In the spirit of communication and working together, we would like to introduce you to some of the organizers that joined OAP for the April 2 Racial Organizer Training Day. These attendees came together from different organizations and backgrounds to learn to better identify and define what effective community relationships truly are.

*Not all attendees are introduced below; stay tuned for our upcoming video which features some more dedicated Minnesota organizers.

Norma Smith biopic

Norma Smith

Norma Smith, The Family Partnership

The mission of The Family Partnership is building strong families, vital communities, and better futures for children with focuses on services for counseling, education, and advocacy. Norma hopes to become a more effective community leader and also a better listener to those she represents. Norma actively works with the Leech Lake community in Minneapolis to bring empowerment to urban Native Americans through awareness of traditional cultural practices.



Sarah Lopez

Sarah Lopez

Sarah Lopez, Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association (PPNA)

PPNA is a nonprofit organization othat seeks to strengthen inner-city communities throughout Minneapolis. In her work with them, Sarah has made it her goal to find new ways to reinforce these community ties by working directly with residents and community members, listening to their concerns and experiences. With her OAP training, Sarah hopes to dig deeper into solutions for racial equity and find ways to create a sense of community in Minneapolis’ high crime areas.



John Slate

John Slate

 John Slate, Dayton’s Bluff Community Council

John is using his training through OAP to become a better community organizer in his neighborhood. He is currently working for the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council as a grant writer and wants to continue to pursue issues surrounding racial, social and economic injustices in the neighborhood. One of his current projects is working on transit corridor issues surrounding the light rail construction.



Nahila Ahsan

Nahila Ahsan

Nahila Ahsan, Vital Research/Student & Community Relations (U ofM)

After spending time working with the Student & Community Relations organization at the University of Minnesota, Nahila found that she loves engaging one-on-one with people to learn about their backgrounds and community issues. She has had the opportunity to connect with individuals through her work at Vital Research and enjoys hearing the experiences of others. Nahila hopes that her OAP training will give her a new set of tools to use in her work and allow her to connect, motivate and empower her community.



Jamila Thomas

Jamila Thomas

Jamila  Thomas, Community Action of Minneapolis/Neighborhoods Organizing for Change

As a public relations intern at Community Action of Minneapolis, Jamila was inspired to develop projects of her own. She now works as a Community Navigator with the organization, leading the Kuzari Project, which strives to unify families in protective services. She also works with Neighborhoods for Change (NOC) where her current focus is educating parents and students on public school policies. She feels her OAP training will help her be more strategic in methods of communication and strengthen her ability to organize people in her community.



Ben Milas

Ben Milas

Ben Milas, First Universalist Church of Minneapolis

As a member of First Universalist Church, Ben is hoping to find ways to cultivate and build relationships in his congregation and community. He believes that communicating about racial justice and equity within the church can lead to better conversation outside of it. Ben feels his OAP training will help him to better understand how to organize within the church and articulate obstacles in a clear manner, which will hopefully lead to stronger relationships within the congregation.



Shavunda Horsley

Shavunda Horsley

Shavunda Horsley, Hope Community/Neighborhoods Organizing for Change

Between her work with Hope Community and NOC, Shavunda has had the opportunity to survey residents in her area about their concerns and the change they hope to see. Her current work involves food justice in the Minneapolis area, spending her time educating community members on healthy eating and cooking choices. Shavunda is passionate about helping areas that aren’t offered equal access to nutritious food. She feels theOAP training will help her dig deeper, ask better questions, and deepen connections among communities.



Tasha Powell

Tasha Powell

Tasha Powell, Appetite for Change

Tasha has experienced racial stereotypes regarding food in her community. As one of the founders of Appetite for Change, she seeks to build strong relationships around a local food system through the organization. She believes that bringing locally grown food into neighborhood stores is a big step in the process, and having more nutritious food options will lead to healthier communities. Appetite for Change offers people opportunities to cook, learn, and discuss food issues together. Tasha feels her OAP training will help her facilitate more effective conversations at community events.


Hundreds of organizers just like these have built relationships with the Organizing Apprenticeship Project in an effort to strengthen skills in organizing, communicating and making effective change. To learn more about how you can train to better serve your community and help us achieve racial equity, visit OAP’s homepage or connect with them on Facebook or Twitter.


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OAP & Greater Minnesota

The Organizing Apprenticeship Project on reaching out to Greater Minnesota.

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Rallying for Racial Justice

“Let the lovers of peace say peace (‘Peace!’); let the soldiers for love say love (‘Love!’); and let those who serve justice say justice (‘Justice!’).” This was the chant being led by Brother Ali to kick off the Racial Justice Rally at the Minnesota State Capitol this past Wednesday, March 5. Watch a short but powerful clip of Brother Ali’s post-chant speech here.

The rally was hosted by the Organizing Apprenticeship Project (OAP) and included other speakers and performers including Lioness and Guante who, like Brother Ali, are Minneapolis-based hip hop performers and fighters for racial justice.

“We have unfinished business to take care of in 2014,” Vina Kay declared to the enthusiastic crowd. Kay, Director of Research and Policy for OAP, released their 2014 Racial Equity Agenda at the rally. The agenda addresses the need to remove the barriers to opportunity that several Minnesota communities are facing.

Vina Kay speaking at the Racial Justice Rally on March 5, 2014.

Vina Kay speaking at the Racial Justice Rally on March 5, 2014.

Some of the agenda’s objectives for 2014 include:

*Restoring voting rights to people once their time in prison has been served.
It’s important for all communities to have a voice. There are at least 45,000 citizens of Minnesota who have a past criminal conviction and remain on probation or parole; under current law, Minnesota denies their participation in voting. We believe we can change that and join thirteen other states that allow individuals to vote again once they have returned to the community.

*Making driver’s licenses available to all Minnesotans, regardless of immigrant status.
We live in a region where cars are required to access school, jobs and other opportunities. During the last legislative session, the Senate passed a bill that would allow people to obtain driver’s licenses no matter what their immigrant status is. The House can finish this effort and grant these active, working community members the chance to drive legally.

*Raising the minimum wage.
This is a big part of the unfinished business from the last legislative session. Minnesota has one of the lowest minimum wages in the country and raising it to $9.50 would greatly benefit workers of color. Even though the majority of those who would benefit from this are white (77%), the total share of workers in communities of color that would receive a wage increase is higher. This is unfortunately due to the number of Minnesota workers of color that earn low wages being disproportionately high.

Attendees were inspired by the speakers and performers and many stuck around to help lobby state representatives, including two of our Team OAP student reporters, Christine Iserman and Laura Pielow. They joined a lobbyist in asking representatives to vote against pay day loans. There are currently no regulations in Minnesota to stop predatory lenders that prey on low-income areas. Christine said of the experience, “It really feels like you can make a difference.”


Supporters hold signs up in the rotunda.

There are more objectives that OAP hopes to achieve this year. To learn more, read the complete 2014 Racial Equity Agenda here. You can also visit OAP’s website, follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Please lend your voice to obtaining racial justice and equity in Minnesota.

Brett Buckner of the DFL speaks on a Call to Action.

Brett Buckner of the DFL speaks on a Call to Action.

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